Ingmar Bergman once called Roy Andersson the world's best director of commercials. The statement is almost too weird to wrap your mind around; one wonders, to begin with, where the director of The Seventh Seal might have run across a commercial - does he watch TV? What? Game shows? Sex and the City? - and how it is that he's familiar enough with the form to know and compare directors. As it happens, the very weirdness of the statement embodies perfectly the timbre of Andersson's 2002 comedy Songs from the Second Floor. From the dizzying commercial pinnacle to which he's ascended, Andersson has a unique perspective on the world below. And the view from up there is weird indeed.
In Andersson's world, normal human phenomena take on the inscrutability of the surreal. When a magician accepts a volunteer from the audience, for instance, we expect the volunteer to not actually get sawn in half; Andersson asks us to drop that expectation. Traffic jams, in the real world, have limited durations and a determinable cause; in Songs from the Second Floor, they stretch on through the night and no one knows why. Work produces income, but in Andersson's film no one can afford to work anymore, and the man who holds the explanatory memo - a very complicated, problematic memo - has lost it, and it can't be redone.
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